The Croatian Journalists' Association (HND) issued a statement late on Thursday saying that it was appalled by the nomination of Zlatko Hasanbegovic as Minister of Culture in the new government.

"The HND is strongly opposed to the nomination of Zlatko Hasanbegovic as Minister of Culture in the new government of Croatia, in charge of 'disciplining' politically unsuitable journalists, and is outraged at the fact that such a person could have been proposed as a minister in the new government at all," the statement said.

It recalled that Hasanbegovic had stated in a Croatian Television (HTV) programme that antifascism, one of the basic tenets of the Croatian constitution, was "a platitude".

"This scandalous statement by Zlatko Hasanbegovic is not the only public statement of his in contradiction to the basic values of a democratic society. This candidate for a minister used to be a member of the Croatian Liberation Movement (HOP), which was founded by Ustasha leader Ante Pavelic," the HND warned.

It also recalled that the leader of the ruling Patriotic Coalition, Tomislav Karamarko, formally number 2 in the new government, had said in an interview with Globus weekly a few months ago that journalists would have to support the government once the Patriotic Coalition came to power.

Prime Minister-designate Tihomir Oreskovic announced on Thursday that Zlatko Hasanbegovic has been nominated Minister of Culture, who is also responsible for the media. The new cabinet will seek approval by parliament on Friday.

The HND said it would notify the International Federation of Journalists, the Media Department of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Southeast Europe Media Organisation.

Platform 112, an association of about 20 non-governmental organisations, sent an open letter to Prime Minister-designate Oreskovic on Thursday urging him to withdraw the nomination of Zlatko Hasanbegovic as Minister of Culture and of Mijo Crnoja as Minister of Veterans' Affairs.

The association said that Hasanbegovic was "absolutely unsuitable" for the post, quoting him as saying that "antifascism is not the foundation of this country but a platitude that has no basis in the text of the constitution" and that he felt nothing but contempt for "subversive activists financed by the government and multinational corporations". It also noted that Hasanbegovic had on several occasions spoken mockingly of "the ideology of human rights".

Platform 112 criticised the candidate for Defence Minister, Mijo Crnoja, for his plan to set up a register of national traitors, saying that such a plan was more appropriate to a country such as North Korea than a democratic state and a member of the European Union.

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